By Promod Puri
Hyped, and promoted by the controversy, I got induced to view Padmaavat on the big screen. Besides, seeking some entertainment, my scrutiny was also aiming at any scene, dialogues or actions which could support all the reported fuss and anger in India about Padmaavat extravaganza.
Does the movie devalue Rajputs or covet to insult them in whatsoever manner? No, not at all.
Contrarily, it has overstepped in glorifying Rajputs’ identity. Their ethical character, besides as a warrior community, has been intently prioritized in the overall Padmaavat film melodrama.
In his rhetoric cinematic and dialogue delivery which boast the Rajput pride in their customs and traditions, the controversial director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has in fact glorified the inhuman and evil custom of Jauhar as well as the related practice of Sati.
Dubbed as “supreme sacrifice,” the institution of Sati, live burning of widow immediately after the death of husband, which of course was banned more than a century ago by the British Raj in India, became a part of the Rajput heritage. The word ‘sati’ means true and loyal in Sanskrit.
Whereas Sati involved self-immolation in the pyre of the dead husband, Jauhar was more specific to widows of their dead husbands killed in the war to save themselves from being taken away by the victorious enemies. And to uphold their honor, self-immolation was the choice for them. Jauhar was mass immolation by women of a defeated army. Although it is claimed Jauhar was committed by the women on their own will, that is debatable.
In the movie, Bhansali gave the ritual a royal treatment of the Jauhar scene in slow motion for prolong viewing to create a sense of pride in this Rajput tradition. In fact, both the customs of Sati and Jauhar were most barbarian acts against a woman when she was psychologically pushed to immolate herself alive with the Brahminical declaration of becoming a goddess after the so-called supreme sacrifice.
If the Jauhar scene is the highlight of the movie, then it is disgusting as well.
The movie Padmaavat also reinforces the mindset attitudes portrayed by Ranveer Singh in the role of Allauddin Khilji as a stereotypical evil Muslim king, and Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) as the righteous Hindu king.
Padmaavat does offer entertainment in its visuals as well as the superb performances by the three lead actors, Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Shahid Kapoor. The two separate dance numbers lead by Deepika Padukone, and Ranveer Singh are terrific feats of their talents, especially when watching on the big screen.
Enjoy the movie. But if you miss it, no big deal.
(Promod Puri is the author of “Hinduism beyond rituals, customs, and traditions.” He is also a frequent writer on topics related to Hinduism, politics, and human interest. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, promodpuri.blogspot.com)